MIAMI (CBSMiami)- Small breweries are becoming big business in South Florida, some have been bought up by titans of the beer industry like Budweiser or Miller.
But a few have stayed independent, deciding to make their own brew their own way.
“So this is actually the brew house, this is where all the magic happens,” said Jonathan Wakefield, owner of J. Wakefield Brewing to CBS4’s Lisa Petrillo.
J. Wakefield Brewing is Wynwood’s only 100 percent independently owned craft brewery and tap room. It has an average of 15 different beers on tap using local fruit.
At the helm, Wakefield, a former certified public accountant for 15 years. His hobby was home brewing, until one day he decided to trade in his accounting logs for fermentation tanks.
“I did not love sitting behind a desk for 15 years, so for me this is something I love to do, being able to create things for people to enjoy, that’s the biggest thing I got out of the whole project,” Wakefield said.
Wakefield and his head brewer, Maria Cabre, one of the very few female brewers around working the line every day and producing some 4,000 barrels of beer a year.
They take pleasure in making quality beers, using flavor enhancing techniques on the beer barrels like on this day, soaking it in fresh maple syrup.
“I used to be a pastry chef and we met through a mutual friend and I started cleaning kegs and since I had that background, it’s similar to brewing, an exact science, he taught me everything I know. It’s going on 5 years now,” Cabre said
For five years now, Wakefield has brought his annual craft beer festival called ‘Wakefest Invitational’ to Wynwood, attracting thousands for a weekend of suds and sips.
“They are all like us, mom and pops, independently owned, but making some of best beers in the world.” Wakefield said.
David Rodriguez owns Union Beer Store and sells J. Wakefield Beers among others. He said South Florida is finally catching up on the craft brewery craze.
“We are still catching up, but in the last five years with Johnathan opening up, we’re catching up little by little. A lot of good quality brewers are opening up around South Florida,” Rodriguez said.
So how big of a business is it in Florida?
According to The Brewers Association, Florida, which has some 285 craft breweries, produces 1.4 million gallons of beer a year.
There are roughly 29 craft breweries in Miami-Dade and Broward County.
Florida is ranked 44th in the U.S. in craft brew production per capita, but it’s growing exponentially.
Tarpon River Brewing is an 11,000-square-foot tap room and restaurant inside a warehouse space originally constructed as stables in the 1920s.
It’s also independently owned.
Head brewer and co-owner, Adam Fine, brings his years of brewing expertise to a brew pub that serves up 16 taps, including their Prickly Pear Zinger that won gold for best sour.
“We pretty much have four to five standards that are on tap all the time here, but the rest is really up to our imagination. We really do a lot of different beers all the time,” said Fine.
Business partner Lisa Siegel, who opened up this family friendly spot with Fine said craft beers are just plain fun.
“The craft beer is an essential conversation you get to drink that beer, you’ll taste different notes of hops, ingredients and you can have a conversation about it,” said Siegel.
Many craft breweries have cashed in by being bought out by the beer giants, but Tarpon River and J. Wakefield said they chose to stay independent, pursuing their dreams in their own way.
“I’m really looking forward to being successful in our own shoes, doing our own thing here and growing our business the best we can,” said Fine.
“We’ve built our own brand and who we are and I think we want to maintain that,” Wakefield said. “So, to just sell it out is not in the cards for us.”
Cheers to beers being made right here in South Florida!